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Photo credit: Climate Council

A hot air mass parked over central Australia is delivering the second brutal heat wave this month. January is quickly approaching a record-breaking month Down Under.

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In last eight years, nearly 70,000 birds have been killed in the New York City area to make the skies safer for air travel.

On Jan. 15, 2009, three minutes after takeoff from New York City's La Guardia Airport, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 hit a flock of Canada geese just northeast of the George Washington Bridge and lost all engine power. Remarkably, pilots Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles ditched the aircraft onto the Hudson River in midtown Manhattan. All passengers and crew, 155 people, escaped with only a few serious injuries.

It was the most successful ditching in aviation history known as the "Miracle on the Hudson."

Since then, the following birds have been eradicated by government agencies: 28,000 gulls, 16,800 European starlings, 6,000 brown-headed cowbirds, 4,500 mourning doves and approximately 1,800 Canada geese.

In the five years before the Hudson River emergency landing, there were 158 bird strikes per year. In the six years following the accident, 299 air strikes were recorded per year, according to statistics amassed by the Associated Press.

These numbers show that killing nearly 70,000 birds in 2009 did not reduce the number of airplane strikes. "There has to be a long-term solution that doesn't rely so extensively on killing birds and also keeps us safe in the sky," said Jeffrey Kramer, of GooseWatch NYC.

In 2016, New York's Port Authority signed a five-year, $9.1 million agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to research and manage the wildlife around the airports. This includes regularly shooting a laughing gull colony at nearby Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

According to Port Authority documents, "One must consider the consequences if this proven shooting program was discontinued and a serious bird strike occurred while the colony was still present."

However, there are many non-lethal methods that airports around the globe use to keep their runways free of birds.

Pyrotechnics are used daily at most airports to drive birds away.

"The flash, bang kind of stuff immediately gets their attention and pushes them away," Michael Begier, national co-ordinator of the airport wildlife hazards program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said.

Salt Lake City's airport has reduced the number of Canada geese by addling their eggs. "The goose is scared from the nest and the eggs are addled or oiled pretty much in place by picking each egg up individually and shaking them or submerging them in vegetable oil," Gib Rokich, who oversees the airport's wildlife program, remarked.

"The goose continues to sit on them but they never have a successful hatch. If she lays 10 goslings, and five survive into adulthood, then they will want to come back to the same location to nest, so you can see how it can multiply. After four years, we broke the cycle, so we still get the occasional one but they're not established any more."

UK airports use bird distress signals, which effectively clear runways. Speakers are mounted on vehicles that emit more than 20 different bird calls.

Since 1999, Fort Myers, Florida, has used dogs to keep birds away, successfully reducing bird strikes by 17 percent. "While the egrets, herons and moorhens can get use to pyrotechnics, they never adapt to the presence of a natural predator like dogs," Ellen Lindblad, director of planning and environmental compliance at Southwest Florida International Airport, said.

Salt Lake City's airport uses pigs to disrupt California gulls. Pigs trample and eat gull eggs, and each spring they are used to deter gull colonies. When the gulls arrive and see the pigs waiting to devour their eggs, they move on.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The combined wealth of eight men is greater than the poorest 3.6 billion people, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam International.

This is a massive jump from last year's estimate, which cited the world's 62 richest people having a combined wealth equal to the poorest 50 percent of the population on the planet.

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Acquired Jan. 7 - 10. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Extreme weather, from drought to heavy downpour, lambasted much of California over the last couple of weeks.

An atmospheric river brimming with moisture, known as the "Pineapple Express," brought tropical Hawaiian water to California with some of the worst flooding since 2005. The river can carry up to 15 times the equivalent volume of the Mississippi River. According to NASA, "Between 30 and 50 percent of the annual precipitation in the western U.S. comes from just a few atmospheric river events."

Atmospheric River Soaks California

More than 350 billion gallons of water poured into Northern California reservoirs last week. Reservoirs from Mount Shasta to Lake Tahoe filled faster than any time since 1922. Lake Shasta is the state's largest reservoir, a crucial water source enabling agriculture in the otherwise dry San Joaquin Valley. Lake Shasta is now 82 percent full.

Fifteen feet of snow fell on Mammoth Mountain in the eastern Sierras from Jan. 6 to 11. Kirkwood Ski Resort added 11 feet of snow in five days. Since Oct. 1, precipitation in the Sierra Nevada has been on pace with 1982-83, northern and central Sierra, and 1968-69, southern Sierra, as the wettest winters on record in modern times.

With the extreme rainfall came deadly mudslides, torrential flooding and hurricane-force winds. Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes. At least four fatalities are linked to rain, snow, mudslides and flooding.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Olympic Valley recorded a record-breaking 173-mph wind gust at its 8,700-foot peak. That's equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, which rips buildings off their foundations.

The National Weather Service reported a tornado that tore through the community of South Natomas in the state's capitol Sacramento. It left a half-mile swath of destruction, shredding trees, and leveling metal awnings and a fence.

Though rainfall from December to late February is the normal pattern, San Francisco received more rain in the first eight days of January than it did during all of 2013.

"What's happening in the Bay Area is unusual," Tom Fisher, weather specialist for the National Weather Service in Oxnard, told the Los Angeles Times.

Heavy rains and winds in northern California took their toll in Calaveras Big Tree State Park, 90 miles east of Sacramento. A giant Sequoia named "Tunnel Tree" lost its footing and came crashing to the Earth.

More than 40 percent of the state is no longer in drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Most of that area accounts for Northern California and the Sierra Nevada.

Despite the staggering amounts of precipitation from the Pineapple Express, parts of Southern California received no measurable rainfall. As a result, those drought stricken areas doubled from 18 percent to almost 35 percent.

"The drought has not let up on the Central Coast," said David Matson, assistant general manager of the Goleta Water District.

Los Angeles and Orange Counties along with parts of central California are officially still experiencing "extreme drought." While Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties remain in "exceptional drought." Santa Barbara's Lake Cachuma added a meager 3 percent to its water levels, which is only 11 percent full.

With more precipitation forecasted for next week, water-starved Southern California could get a reprieve.

More moisture will also help California's parched forests. Over the last five years, 102 million trees have died from water starvation and bark beetle infestations.

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